San Diego Padres Top Prospects 2024
San Diego Padres top prospects for 2024 dynasty fantasy baseball including Jackson Merrill, Ethan Salas, Robby Snelling, Dylan Lesko and more.
Welcome to our team prospect rankings. Over the next two months, I will be pumping out team top prospect rankings and evaluations for dynasty baseball. These reports are generated from live looks, film study, and advanced data analysis to bring you in-depth fantasy scouting reports on every player you need to know, with today’s being the San Diego Padres Top Prospects.
Not all 30 players in each writeup will be dynasty relevant, but many will, and if you play in a deep league, certainly most of the names will be worth knowing.
You can check out our previous Top Prospect Rankings:
Each player has a detailed write-up. The top 10 rankings and writeups are free for all, but the rest of the top prospects are for paid subs. Get an edge in your dynasty leagues and get in on some of these players first! Let’s get to it, our Padres Top Prospect list.
San Diego Padres Top Prospects
1. Jackson Merrill, SS, 20, 6’3”/200
Merrill was selected 27th overall in 2021 on an under-slot deal, but was a successful scouting find by the Padres. Since being drafted, Merill has done nothing but hit and has shown progress with his hit tool every season despite being young for the level.
From a pure contact standpoint, you would be hard-pressed to find a better contact hitter who also has a well-rounded skillset. After posting a 90 percent zone-contact rate in 2022 to pair with an 85 percent overall contact, Merrill followed it up with an 88 percent zone and 83 percent overall contact rate between High-A and Double-A, despite being a young 20-year-old. Merrill chased more in 2023(30 percent vs 26.5 in 2022), but it did not lead to more strikeouts due to the amount of contact he makes.
Given the frame plus bat speed, Merrill gets to solid exit velocity, especially as he has filled out his frame. Posting an average exit velocity and 90th percentile exit velocity firmly above average, Merrill has failed to turn it into home runs due to high ground ball rates. He did manage 15 home runs in 2023 as he saw the ground ball rate trend downward from 59 percent closer to 40 percent. A substantial change in launch angle was a key part of Merrill getting to more power, but there is still more in the tank.
If you like a high-floor caliber player who is a safe bet to be a solid major league bat, Merrill is a solid bet. While already having a solid frame, there is room for more, and Merrill could add more power to the profile. While the speed is average or slightly above, Merrill has shown consistent success on the base paths, swiping 15 bases this year in 19 tries. The potential is there for Merrill to provide seasons where he hits .300 with 25 home runs and ten stolen bases.
FFG: Top 10 SS with Multi-Position Eligibility
90th Percentile Peak Outcome: .300/.350/25 HR/10 SB
2. Ethan Salas, C, 17, 6’2”/185
If I told you that a 16-year-old catcher would be getting reps in Major League Spring Training, would you have believed me? What if I told you that same catcher reached Double-A shortly after turning 17 years old? Well, Ethan Salas did those things in 2023 after signing for $5.8 million that same January.
Salas shows maturity well beyond his age, considering he should still be in high school. The contact skills and plate discipline were impressive for his first professional season. Checking in with a 77.5 percent overall contact rate and a zone-contact rate north of 85 percent is highly impressive and even better when you factor in a chase rate of 20 percent.
The power is already quite advanced for his age, hitting nine home runs in 66 games, but the exit velocities stood out for a 17-year-old. Salas checked in with an 87 mph average exit velocity and a 90th percentile above 102 mph, which would both be elite if we compared him to people his age. The frame also has a ton to dream on, and you can expect the power to tick up even more.
With elite makeup both behind the dish and at the plate for his age, the Padres have a lot to dream on. There is still plenty of development to be had there, and even though Salas reached Double-A, he probably needs at least another one to two full seasons of Minor League ball, and even if he debuted in late 2025, Salas would only be 19 years old. You can dream of the upside of one of the top catchers in baseball with Salas and not only becoming the Padres top prospect but also one of the top prospects in all of baseball.
FFG: Top 5 Catcher
90th Percentile Peak Outcome: .280/.350/23 HR/5 SB
3. Robby Snelling, LHP, 19, 6’3”/210
Snelling is an exceptional athlete who was a four-start linebacker recruit who was going to LSU for both baseball and football. He has spent little time focusing on baseball alone until being drafted, so his progress as a pitcher in a short time has been nothing short of spectacular. Snelling pitched at three levels in 2023, making it to Double-A, where he combined to have a 1.82 ERA across 103.2 innings pitched with 118 strikeouts and just 34 walks.
The fastball ticked up throughout the season, where he sat in the low 90s, but as the season progressed, Snelling began to sit closer to 93-94 while topping at 96. The fastball plays well up in the zone, featuring high levels of induced vertical break, generating plenty of whiffs.
His curve is his most used secondary, sitting in the lower 80s, but sometimes morphs into a slider shape, but features a two-plane break. He is comfortable throwing it both in and out of the zone, getting whiffs and chasing. It runs away from left-handed hitters, but Snelling will also throw it to right-handers back foot on occasion.
The changeup is still a developing pitch that needs more separation from the fastball, but it does show nice traits at times, having nice depth running away from righties.
Snelling ranks in the upper tier of arms for me among all prospects right now, and he shows traits of being a number two type starter given the high number of strikes thrown, plus the ability to miss bats. If the fastball begins to sit 95 consistently and the changeup comes along, the upside is tremendous here.
90th Percentile Peak Outcome: 175 IP/3.30 ERA/200 K
4. Drew Thorpe, RHP, 6’4”/212
Thorpe was selected in the second round of the 2022 draft out of Cal Poly and proceeded to post the best numbers of any pitcher in the Minor Leagues in 2023, splitting time between High-A and Double-A. Posting a 2.52 ERA across both levels, Thorpe was better in Double-A, having a 1.48 ERA across the five starts and 30 innings he pitched.
Showing the ability to pitch deep into games consistently, Thorpe tossed 139.1 innings across 23 starts, averaging over six innings per start. He showed plenty of swing-and-miss stuff, striking out 182 batters. Throwing strikes at a 65 percent rate, which is better than average, Thorpe shows a good feel for all his pitches.
While throwing four pitches regularly, Thorpe throws his changeup most often, a truly devastating pitch for hitters. It is his best offering, sitting between 82-85 mph with nasty fade and depth. It might be a 70-grade pitch and one of the better changeups in the minors.
The fastball sits in the 91-93 range, which is a few mph higher than he was in 2022 in college. Despite the lower velocity, it plays up due to the ride that it gets with exceptional command.
Thorpe mixes his slider well, sitting in the mid-80s and generating plenty of whiffs. He will mix a cutter and a curveball on occasion but truly focuses on the fastball, changeup, and slider.
With plus command and control, Thorpe is efficient and can pitch deep into games. If the fastball ticks up another mph or two, Thorpe could see his future outlook jump from a SP4 caliber arm, up to a mid-rotation starter.
90th Percentile Peak Outcome: 180 IP/3.50 ERA/200 K
4. Dylan Lesko, RHP, 20, 6’2”/195
One of the more talented prep, right-handed pitchers, Dylan Lesko, was discussed as a potential top-five pick which does not happen that often for prep arms. Unfortunately, his senior season ended early due to an injury that led to Tommy John Surgery, but that did not deter the Padres from selecting Lesko at 15 overall.
Lesko returned in 2023, pitching 33 innings across three levels, reaching High-A, and posting a 5.45 ERA with 52 strikeouts. The good news is that the stuff appeared to be back, as Lesko’s arsenal looked strong. The bad news, Lesko struggled with control, throwing strikes at just a 58 percent clip.
His fastball came back to life, sitting 95 with explosive carry at the top of the zone, appearing to have a rising effect. The IVB numbers are elite for any arm, consistently checking in at over 20 inches.
The changeup has always been Lesko’s bread and butter, being one of the pitches in his draft class. He sells it well with fast arm speed but has a large velocity differential and a ton of late-fading action. The pitch plays extremely well with his fastball.
Lesko’s third pitch is a mid-70s curveball with a ton of downward action. It's a high spinning pitch that he does not land for strikes often, but does flash potential.
Given the mid-90s fastball and a 15 mph separation between that and the next pitch, Lesko could benefit from adding a slider or cutter to bridge the velocity gap. The upside is tremendous, though and 2024 could be a big breakout season considering it would be another year removed from Tommy John.
90th Percentile Peak Outcome: 160 IP/3.30 ERA/185 K
5. Jairo Iriarte, RHP, 21, 6’5”/200
After signing for just $75k with the Padres in 2018, Iriarte has had an up-and-down career, until 2023 at least. After a ton of hard work in the weight room and added strength to his frame, Iriarte saw his fastball begin to sit 96-97 consistently with a ton of riding action from a low arm slow. The pitch generates ride and run, causing a ton of hitters to whiff on it.
He pairs it with a devastating slider that consistently sits in the mid-80s with a ton of sweep and downward movement. He throws it to both-handed hitters, and it was a his go-to swing-and-miss pitch in 2023, and for good reason.
Iriarte’s changeup plays well off his fastball, as it sits near 90 mph with fading action, tunneling well off the fastball before taking a late dive. The changeup misses bats but also generates a ton of ground balls when contact is made.
The stuff is electric with Iriarte, but it does come with a violent delivery. Even though the command has improved throughout his career, another step forward could ensure that Iriarte is a starter long-term, which he is already trending toward. Expect him to get a shot to start in San Diego at some point in 2024.
FFG: High-K Mid-Rotation SP
90th Percentile Peak Outcome: 160 IP/3.50 ERA/180 K
6. Graham Pauley, INF/OF, 23, 6’1”/200
A 2022 13th-rounder out of Duke, Pauley has flown under the radar for most of his career, at least up until this point. 2023 saw him mash 23 home runs and steal 22 bases while slashing .308/.393/.539 between three levels, including reaching Double-A.
Pauley has an elite knack for the barrel, hitting the ball at ideal launch angles and making the most of his power. While the exit velocities play closer to average(103 mph 90th percentile), the angles help him play up to above-average game power.
From a contact standpoint, Pauley stacks up with the best of them, posting an 87 percent zone contact rate and an overall clip north of 80 percent. He chased just 20 percent of pitches out of the zone, am impressive rate.
While he clocks run times closer to average, Pauley has instincts on the base paths, stealing 22 bases in 27 attempts in 2023. Pauley checks a lot of boxes on top of the fact he is showing versatility to play all over the field. He focused on left field in the Arizona Fall League, which could enable him to get a chance in the Padres lineup sooner than later.
FFG: Multi-Positional High Floor Bat
90th Percentile Peak Outcome: .280/.360/20 HR/15 SB
7. Dillon Head, OF, 19, 6’0”/185
A late riser in the 2023 draft class, the Padres took Head in the first round, 25th overall. He fits the mold of the first-round caliber players that the Padres like to draft, and past results look great on that front.
From a pure tools standpoint, Head was one of the fastest runners in the class, clocking a 6.3-second 60-yard dash and a 70-grade run time. He makes a ton of contact as his swing is geared to drive the barrel straight to the ball. His big leg kick may give some concerns, but his timing has been good as a professional despite it. In his small professional sample, Head made contact on over 85 percent of pitches.
The power is currently more gap-to-gap, but Head is capable of getting to more power to the pull side. Future projection on the power sits below average, but with the feel to hit plus speed, Head has potential to be a solid asset.
FFG: Speed Threat OF
90th Percentile Peak Outcome: .280/.350/10 HR/45 SB
8. Adam Mazur, RHP, 22, 6’2”/180
Command specialist and strike thrower are just two terms that adequately describe Adam Mazur, former second-round pick in the 2022 draft.
Mazur’s fastball sits in the mid-90s, reaching 98 with room to fill out his frame still and add strength. The movement profile is interesting, as it is often quite inconsistent, but vertically averaging nearly 15 inches of IVB. Mazur fills the zone with it, but needs to find consistency for the fastball to truly play like a plus pitch.
The slider is devastating to hitters, sitting near 90 mph with late-breaking action that keeps hitters on their toes. It is Mazur’s highest whiff rate pitch, but he also lands it for strikes quite often.
The curveball is a decent third pitch, sitting in the mid-80s with 12-6 shape, while he will throw a changeup in the same velocity band as well.
Mazur fills the strike zone, gets plenty of whiffs, and has a starter’s arsenal and frame. It is everything you want to dream on with a high-floor pitcher like this. He may fit the mold of a high-floor SP4, but there is more development to be had with Mazur. For more read Nate Handy’s detailed breakdown:
FFG: Command Specialist SP4
90th Percentile Peak Outcome: 150 IP/3.50 ERA/170 K
9. Samuel Zavala, OF, 19, 6’1”/175
Tools for days is what you like to dream on when it comes to an athlete outfielder like Samuel Zavala, who signed with the Padres back in 2021 for $1.2 million. Spending most of his season in Single-A Lake Elsinore, Zavala spent the final two weeks of 2023 with High-A Fort Wayne. Across 515 plate appearances, Zavala slashed .243/.391/.406 with 14 home runs and 21 stolen bases. He walked over 18 percent of the time while striking out in 27 percent of plate appearances.
The frame gives hope that Zavala could fill out and add to exit velocities that are presently average, especially considering his swing that generates natural loft. You almost wish he could level the batted balls out a bit, as he posted a 47 percent fly ball rate and a sub-15 percent line drive rate. The lack of line drives is going to induce a lower BABIP, therefore low batting averages.
Contact has been the biggest struggle with Zavala throughout his career, and 2023 was no exception. He finished the season with a 70 percent zone-contact rate and just a 67 percent overall clip The good news is that Zavala does not chase out of the zone often, posting one of the lowest chase rates in all of the Minors at 14 percent.
Zavala does show above-average speed and good instincts on the base paths, stealing 21 bases last season and being caught just seven times. If the contact improves, there is a 20 home run/20 stolen base upside, but there is also a strong possibility of flaming out if the contact rates don’t increase.
FFG: Power/Speed OF with Hit Tool Concerns
90th Percentile Peak Outcome: .250/.350/20/20
Variance: Very High
10. Jakob Marsee, OF, 22, 6’0”/190
After a successful collegiate career at Central Michigan, Marsee flew under the radar, even after being selected in the sixth round of the 2022 draft by the San Diego Padres. Marsee has full attention now after a strong 2023 season and one of the best performances of any hitter in the Arizona Fall League.
Seeing Marsee live, I was surprised by how thick he was, filled out from top to bottom in his 6’0” frame. Between 686 plate appearances in the regular season the AFL, Marsee hit 21 home runs while stealing 62 bases; 16 of the home runs and 46 stolen bases came during the regular season. His slash line checked in at .286/.413/.428 with more walked than strikeouts.
The profile is interesting when looking under the hood as Marsee posted an 83.9 mph average exit velocity and a 99.5 mph 90th percentile, which grade out closer to 30-grade power, but the home runs suggest otherwise. Marsee lifts the ball with ease and has ideal launch angles while also pulling plenty of those hits. It is worth noting that Marsee spent nearly all of 2023 in Fort Wayne, which has a 318-foot fence in right field, where most of Marsee’s home runs left the yard.
From a contact standpoint, Marsee had a strong 84.2 percent overall contact rate while in zone checked in at 88.4. He chased just 16 percent of pitches out of the zone, showing his elite plate discipline.
While not posting high-end clock times, Marsee is efficient on the base paths, as you can see by his stolen base totals. While swiping 62 between the regular season and AFL, he was caught just 12 times.
The floor is fairly high with Marsee, thanks to his contact skills, but the power projects closer to a 10-12 home run bat that can steal 25 bases with respectable ratios.
FFG: High OBP OF
90th Percentile Peak Outcome: .280/.380/14 HR/30 SB
Buy/Sell: Sell(Because the offseason hype is insane)
Get the rest of the Padres top prospect list and writeups by subbing below and get an edge in your dynasty leagues. You will also gain access to a ton of awesome features to help you win.